Mulroy Bay, Co Donegal - CrawCrafts Beasties

Memory Lane: Donegal Road Trips

Hello there Beastie friends! And hey, look at this – we’re nearly halfway through January already. That HAS to be worth celebrating! Now normally at this time of year, my brother and I (often with a certain small blue and yellow woolly monster in tow) would spend a day driving around beautiful Co Donegal, in the extreme north-west of Ireland. For obvious reasons, we haven’t managed a Donegal road trip in a good few months – possibly since last Christmas. Yikes!

So, I thought I would use today’s post to take a virtual road trip instead. Quick, put on the kettle for a nice cup of tea, or grab a can of the black stuff… Ready? Okay, let’s go!

First of all, it’s never advisable to start a road trip on an empty stomach. How about we kick off with a nice healthy Full Irish Breakfast?
Explorer Beastie, Eyeing up my Breakfast - CrawCrafts BeastiesDon’t worry, we’ll have plenty of opportunities to walk this off later.

Now that we’re properly fuelled up, let’s go and enjoy some scenery.
Explorer Beastie at Glengesh Pass, Donegal - CrawCrafts BeastiesGlengesh Pass is pretty spectacular at any time of the year. The last time we were there it was late summer – look at those rolling green hills! It’s also on the way to Glencolmcille, where a Beastie can dip his paws in the Atlantic if the mood takes him.
Paddling on Glencolmcille Beach - CrawCrafts BeastiesMind you, it’s not all sunshine and sand dunes here. Sometimes it can be a bit on the breezy side…
Windy Out Today! CrawCrafts Beasties… And the traffic is terrible.
Rush Hour, Glencolmcille - CrawCrafts BeastiesAll this would really give you an appetite. Lunchtime! Conveniently enough, we’re just passing through Ardara… Nancy’s Bar here does a cracking lunch, and a very tasty homemade cider.

Also, you feel like you’re hanging out in someone’s cosy living room.
Nancy's Dresser - Spot the Beastie! CrawCrafts BeastiesAlright, time to head north! And because we’re travelling by blog, we can enjoy two sunsets at two different locations. First, Fanad Head, where there’s a beautiful lighthouse to admire…
Can we reach the Lighthouse? CrawCrafts Beasties… And rocks to scramble over.
Explorer Beastie by the Sea, Fanad Head - CrawCrafts BeastiesNext, we can journey to the northernmost point of the island of Ireland – Malin Head.
Malin Head Viewpoint - CrawCrafts BeastiesThen we can cruise by the wide sandy beach at Five Finger Strand…
Explorer Beastie on Five Finger Strand - CrawCrafts Beasties… Before catching the last of the daylight on our way home.
Explorer Beastie at Sunset - CrawCrafts BeastiesDon’t forget to leave a rock monster behind to show we were here!
Rock Monster in Donegal - CrawCrafts BeastiesAnd once we get home, we can warm up by the fire and swap adventuring stories.
Warming up by the fire - CrawCrafts BeastiesAaaaah! Toasty.

So, where would you next like to take a road trip to? Be sure to share your travelling daydreams with us in the comments!

Explorer Beastie with Spring Daffodils - CrawCrafts Beasties

Early Spring at Beastie Towers!

Did you know that, according to the Celtic calendar, Spring in Ireland begins at the start of February? Most of the time, it doesn’t feel particularly Spring-like until well into March (especially last year!) but 2019 has been so mild. Explorer Beastie’s miniature daffodils have been blooming for a couple of weeks already!
Explorer Beastie with Spring Daffodils - CrawCrafts BeastiesAnd with the warming temperatures and gradually lengthening days, activity levels have been picking up a little too! Today I wanted to share some of the extra-curricular activities that have been keeping me and the Beasties busy this past while.

A Spring Clean… For My Skills!

Aaaah, the sewing machine! My old nemesis. For too long, your ways have eluded me… In fact, slow as it is to stitch seams by hand, it has often seemed quicker than the usual sew it-rip it-resew it-rip it process that usually accompanies a stint on the machine.
Vintage Singer Sewing Machine - CrawCrafts BeastiesBut this year, I decided enough was enough. Let’s master those sewing machine demons! So I signed up for a class with The City Seamstress. I’ve already picked up some valuable tips that have made my work better (and helped my confidence, too) and right now I’m working on a project which is neeeearly finished, so I should hopefully be able to share pics very soon!

And as well as learning, I’ve been teaching too! January was a really busy time for my knitting classes – it’s like half of Dublin decided to put “learn to knit” at the top of their New Year’s Resolutions list! This spurred me on to tackle something I’ve been meaning to do for a while… Make up a really easy sweater pattern.
A Super-Easy Srping Sweater - CrawCrafts BeastiesYou see, a lot of students want to take on the challenge of making a jumper quite early on… But even the simplest-looking designs often have next-level knitting skills lurking in the pattern. And while some new knitters thrive on being thrown in at the deep end, more than a few are put off by the idea of fancy shaping techniques, decorative seams and the alphabet soup of abbreviations that crop up in many “beginner” patterns.

So, what you see in the picture is sleeve #2 of an almost-finished sweater of… Just rectangles! And yes, the design is probably far from original, but this version is mine! That makes it easier to guide people through all the pre-knitting preparations, like sizing and choosing yarn, and also to suggest tweaks if anyone wants to put their own stamp on it.

Also, I get a new sweater.

But it can’t be all work and no play, of course. There has to be time for a…

Spring Breaaaaaaaak!

That means a quick trip out to Donegal with my brother, now pretty much a February tradition. This is the third year we’ve hit the road and headed about as far north-west as it’s possible to go in Ireland without falling into the sea. You can catch up with the epic 2017 and 2018 travelogues if you missed them!

Explorer Beastie sat this one out – well, he had to look after his garden, and I really think he should agree to take a bath before he goes on any more location photoshoots – but we did have company for the trip…
A Furry Friend for Our Road Trip - CrawCrafts Beasties… And I couldn’t resist leaving a monster behind on one of the beaches, just to prove I’d passed through!
Rock Monster in Donegal - CrawCrafts BeastiesWe also had a delicious lunch at Nancy’s Barn in Ballyliffin… Well worth a visit if you find yourself in this part of the world!

And Finally…

A few Beasties have been helping author (and Beastie Buddy) Tammie Painter to celebrate the launch of her latest book, Domna Part Two: The Solon’s Son!


This novel is the second in a series of six about ambitious, resourceful Sofia Domna, whose plans are knocked sideways by a chance encounter in her local marketplace. If you haven’t discovered this series yet, you really should… And the best bit is that Tammie (generous to a fault) is giving away the first novel, The Sun God’s Daughter, to anyone who signs up to her mailing list. Go on, you know you want to!

Well, that’s all the news from here… What have you all been up to? Is Spring springing where you are? Be sure to tell us all about it in the comments!

Explorer Beastie at Glengesh Pass, Donegal - CrawCrafts Beasties

Coast to Coast

Hey there everybody! It’s great to be back after our little blogging break – and Explorer Beastie and I even had time to squeeze in a quick adventure while we were away! On Saturday, we took a trip right across the top of the island of Ireland to spend an afternoon in the beautiful rugged countryside around Glencolmcille in Co. Donegal.

Of course, when you find yourself out that way, it’s impossible not to stop at Nancy’s pub in Ardara for a tasty lunch. You’ll have to go a long way to find better fish dishes, and washing it down with a glass of their farmhouse cider is a must! I would have photographed my food for you all to enjoy, but I fell upon it like a pack of ravenous wolves… So here’s Explorer Beastie enjoying the cosy ambience instead.
Beastie Lunch Break at Nancy's, Ardara - CrawCrafts Beasties
Feeling pleasantly full, it was time to continue our journey… Next stop Glencolmcille! Although we did have to take a quick pause along the way to enjoy the dramatic landscape at Glengesh Pass…
Glengesh Pass, Donegal - CrawCrafts Beasties…And to let Explorer Beastie stretch his legs by climbing all over the signpost.
Glengesh Pass Sign Climbing - CrawCrafts Beasties

Then, back in the car…
On the Road to Glencolmcille - CrawCrafts Beasties… We watched the scenery zip by the window, and the sheep-spotting really began in earnest!
Sheep and Scenery - CrawCrafts BeastiesAnd once we arrived in Glencolmcille, Explorer Beastie decided to hitch a ride in a slightly more rustic mode of transport!
Beastie Barrow! CrawCrafts BeastiesWe had high hopes of exploring the Glencolmcille Folk Village, but we’d arrived a little too late to be able to take a proper look around before closing time. We were still able to take a peek over the wall though, and it’s going on the to-do list for our next visit!
Glencolmcille Folk Village - CrawCrafts Beasties

And hey, what’s that over there?
Travelling by Map - CrawCrafts BeastiesLooks like Explorer Beastie has found a quicker way to travel around Ireland in a day.

“I can see our house from here!”

He also spotted some more woolly friends from his lofty perch. So, we had to go and take a closer look!
Sheep at Glencolmcille - CrawCrafts BeastiesAnd is that a beach I spy in the distance?
Beach Beasties! CrawCrafts BeastiesWhy yes, yes it is! That would be a perfect place to wrap up our day trip, don’t you think?
On Glencolmcille Beach - CrawCrafts BeastiesNot too bad at all.

“Aaah, this is the life!”
Relaxing on Glencolmcille Beach - CrawCrafts BeastiesAnd after a quick game of hide and seek in the long dune grass …
Beastie Hide and Seek - CrawCrafts Beasties… Maybe it’s time for a paddle?
Paddling on Glencolmcille Beach - CrawCrafts BeastiesVery refreshing!

And then, with one last look back at the cliffs in the distance (we’ll definitely have to tackle those on a future trip too)…
Last Look at Glencolmcille Beach - CrawCrafts Beasties… It was time to head back home!

Have your summer wanderings taken you anywhere interesting lately? Be sure to tell us all about it in the comments! And we’ll be back on Friday with a whole family of new Beasties to share. See you then!

Surf's Up, Explorer Beastie! CrawCrafts Beasties

Back to the Wild North West!

Explorer Beastie’s been a bit quiet lately, hasn’t he? But he always likes to take advantage of the post-Christmas lull to do a spot of out-of-town adventuring, and last week found both of us up in Donegal again, treading a slightly different path from the one we took this time last year.

Actually, this breaking of new ground was thrust upon us by circumstances beyond our control. We had originally intended to fuel up with a monster fry at Café Donagh in Carndonagh, but alas! Some pre-trip research revealed that the owners had retired from the breakfast business, leaving us high and dry in the fried food stakes. We only had memories of last year’s feed to sustain us as we embarked on our quest for a new spot to enjoy Third Breakfast (the most important meal of the day).
Explorer Beastie, Eyeing up my Breakfast - CrawCrafts Beasties
Our first stop was the pretty little town of Ramelton. Surely there must be a good breakfasting spot around here?
Ramelton, Co Donegal - CrawCrafts Beasties
But unfortunately not – it being a Sunday, we had the choice of pricey gastropub fare or the diner in the local Eurospar. So Explorer Beastie Beastie-bombed my last photo of the river…
Beastie About Town, Rathmelton - CrawCrafts Beasties
…And we hit the road again. Several potential candidates were rejected along the way, until we drove up to Ripples Restaurant just outside Kerrykeel. We didn’t hold out much hope – we thought it might be a bit fancy for the kind of food we were craving – but the chef was happy to put together a plate of fried goodness for us while Explorer Beastie toasted himself by the fire!
Warming up by the fire - CrawCrafts Beasties
The meal itself escaped photographing, since it was half-eaten before I thought, “Hey, maybe I should have taken a picture”. Please be assured that it was very good, and feast your eyes on the glorious view outside the restaurant instead.
Mulroy Bay, Co Donegal - CrawCrafts Beasties
Well and truly refuelled and recaffeinated, we hopped back into the car and did the best thing you can do when in Donegal – drove to the extreme end of the finger of land we found ourselves on to enjoy some wild coastal scenery!

This time around, that meant heading for Fanad Head, where Explorer Beastie found some ruined houses to explore!Urbex Beastie at Fanad Head - CrawCrafts Beasties
Does it still count as “Urbex” if the buildings are in the middle of nowhere?
Ruins at the Lighthouse, Fanad Head - CrawCrafts Beasties
Post-road-trip research has revealed that this is an old coastguard station, which was abandoned after the Second World War. Back in the day, it would have housed four families, with sheds outside for storage (that’s the building in the top right of the image above). But hey, what’s that just around the corner?
First Glimpse of Fanad Head Lighthouse - CrawCrafts Beasties

Explorer Beastie did everything he could to get a little closer…
Can we reach the Lighthouse? CrawCrafts Beasties
…But we’d just missed the last tour of the day. Still, we enjoyed admiring it from a distance in the bright winter sunlight.
Fanad Head Lighthouse - CrawCrafts Beasties
Building work on this lighthouse started in 1815, and its light shone for the first time on St Patrick’s Day 1817. Its last full-time keeper retired in 1983, and these days it only needs a caretaker… But that means that us regular folks can now book a stay in the former keepers’ cottages! It’s lucky we didn’t know this at the time, or we might not have come home.

As it was, we thought it best to make the most of the remaining daylight – let’s head down to the shore!
Heading to the Shoreline at Fanad Head! CrawCrafts Beasties
One Beastie on the rocks, please!
Surf's Up, Explorer Beastie! CrawCrafts Beasties
We spent a while watching the waves crashing on the rocks – they were seriously huge, even though it was a calm day! Then, as the sun set, we jumped in the car and made for home.Sunset at Fanad Head - CrawCrafts BeastiesBut next time, we’re totally staying in the lighthouse.

Have your travels taken you anywhere interesting yet this year? Be sure to tell us all about it in the comments! And we’ll be back in a week with our first new Beastie of 2018, so join us again next Tuesday!

PS Explorer Beastie isn’t the only one who’s been out adventuring lately! Finn McSpool has been enjoying the benefits of an unseasonably warm start to the year in Portland, and we’ve a new monster face in the Blogosphere too… Take a moment to meet Slartibartfast, who’s just taken up residence on Escribble!

Explorer Beastie in Nancy's, Ardara - CrawCrafts Beasties

The Wild West Coast

It’s time to hit the road with Explorer Beastie again!

Last time the pair of us were in Donegal (the most north-westerly county in Ireland) we chose to head to its northernmost point. This time around, we decided to see how far west we could go before we fell into the sea. Since we were starting out from the opposite side of the island, we did have to stop along the way to get out and stretch our legs…
Explorer Beastie Stretches his Legs - CrawCrafts Beasties
… But this rest stop was actually quite pretty itself!
Roadside Stop - CrawCrafts Beasties
Still, we didn’t want to hang around here all day! It was nearly lunchtime… Quick, back in the car and FLOOR IT!
Is that safe, Explorer Beastie? CrawCrafts BeastiesWhat’s the hurry? Well, we had plans to eat in Nancy’s in Ardara! We’d heard great things about this place, and when we arrived, we were not disappointed. We took our seats at a table by the window in the front room, which is stuffed with the kind of curios that can even take a hungry Beastie’s mind off his rumbling tummy!
Exploring Nancy's - CrawCrafts Beasties
Star of the show (at least until the food came) was the dresser by the door. Look at all this cool vintage crockery! And bonus points if you can spot a certain woolly monster lurking in each of the photos…
Nancy's Dresser - Spot the Beastie! CrawCrafts Beasties
Speaking of food – WOW. This was delicious… I have honestly never enjoyed a piece of fish as much as this in my life.

However, trouble was brewing outside…  The rain was moving in!
Weather Changes Ahoy! CrawCrafts BeastiesAlthough I was sorely tempted to hide away in Nancy’s for the rest of the day, and sample some more of their delicious house cider, Explorer Beastie reminded me that we had planned to see more than just the inside of a pub. We also had others to consider – we were tagging along with my brother and Alfie the wonder dog, and at least one of them was due for walkies! So we headed off in the direction of Glencolmcille, to enjoy the cliff walk just outside the village and see some spectacular views.

But first, we spotted some distant Beastie relatives! This one’s for you, Melissa!
Pre-Beasties! CrawCrafts Beasties
Hmmm… Even they didn’t seem too sure about the weather out there.
Not even great weather for sheep! CrawCrafts Beasties
But we thought we’d at least give it a shot… And we did. For ten whole minutes! The gale force winds, stinging horizontal rain and slippery underfoot terrain meant that this walk was never really going places. But here’s a picture of our attempted destination (that little speck at the top of the cliff), taken from a safe distance as we embarked on our plan B!
The Cliffs at Glencolmcille - CrawCrafts BeastiesIt was still pretty blustery here though – as you can see! Poor Explorer Beastie was literally bent over backwards by the stiff sea breeze, and nearly lost his backpack to a particularly strong gust!
Windy Out Today! CrawCrafts Beasties
Rescuing it slowed us down a bit, so that’s probably why we got stuck in the rush hour traffic.
Rush Hour, Glencolmcille - CrawCrafts Beasties
But we made it in the end! From a car park on the cliff top, 107 steps take you down to Silver Strand beach – a lovely sheltered bay with a huge expanse of sand to play on!
Lots of Sand at Silver Strand! CrawCrafts Beasties
The hills that protect the bay from the elements are pretty interesting too!
Scenery at Silver Strand - CrawCrafts Beasties
Explorer Beastie found some rocks to clamber over…
Rock Climbing Time! CrawCrafts Beasties… And this pastime seems to be something he shares with his woolly cousins. How did they get up there?
Intrepid Cliff Climbing Sheep - CrawCrafts Beasties
After a while, the daylight started to fade…
Day's End on Silver Strand - CrawCrafts Beasties
… So Alfie bid a fond farewell to the really interesting stick he found…
Alfie the Wonder Dog - CrawCrafts Beasties… And with one last look back…
Goodbye, Silver Strand Beach! CrawCrafts Beasties
… We headed for home!

Have your paws taken you anywhere interesting lately? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

Aaaaand Paddy and Plunkett will be back to entertain us all again next Tuesday, so be sure to join us then! Have a super week, everybody!

Road Trip 2 – Extreme North!

This time last week, we left Explorer Beastie on a breezy hilltop overlooking Five Finger Strand in Co. Donegal…
Explorer Beastie Above Five Finger Strand - CrawCrafts Beasties… And now it’s time for us to push onwards and upwards, to Malin Head – the very northernmost point of the island!

There’s some pretty wild coastline up here…
The Wild North West - CrawCrafts Beasties… And before we headed up to the viewpoint, we took advantage of the last little bit of daylight (always in short supply at this time of the year) to wander along the shoreline. There are plenty of places for a Beastie to explore here!
Exploring the Coastline, Beastie-style! CrawCrafts BeastiesOf course, sometimes just LOOKING at those rocks isn’t enough. The best way to experience them is definitely to get up close and paws-on…
One Beastie on the Rocks, Please - CrawCrafts Beasties…Because that’s when you discover hidden gems like these! Wouldn’t that pool be just heavenly on a hot day? Mind you, I’m not sure they get many hot days up here…

We also had a chance to watch the waves rolling in off the Atlantic, and see them meeting land for the first time in thousands of miles…
Wave Watching - CrawCrafts BeastiesBut as you can see, the light was fading fast… So we cut short our stroll and headed back uphill to the official lookout spot.
Explorer Beastie at Malin Head - CrawCrafts BeastiesHere’s the proof that we were there! Oh, and the view isn’t bad either…
Malin Head Viewpoint - CrawCrafts BeastiesApparently locals would gather here to catch a last glimpse of friends and family as they left in ships to seek an easier life elsewhere. Malin Head also has a military past – those incredible panoramic views made it an ideal spot to put a watchtower! There’s one here that dates back to the Napoleonic wars, and another signal station from around 1902.
Signal Station or Musical Monster? CrawCrafts BeastiesI’m guessing my photo shows the signal station – although at the time my main motivation for taking the picture was the fact that it looked kinda like a monster singing into a microphone from this angle.

With a jam-packed camera and only slightly cold paws, it was time for us to hit the road again. But Donegal had a couple more surprises in store for us… First of all, a rather spectacular sunset!
Explorer Beastie at Sunset - CrawCrafts BeastiesAnd further down the road, a warm welcome at the Drift Inn! We’d barely entered the cosy bar before some locals sat us down at their table, in front of the most roaring open fire I’ve ever seen – seriously, there was half a tree on there – and started chatting away to us like we were regulars ourselves. They even treated Explorer Beastie to a pint of the black stuff!
Explorer Beastie Quenches his Thirst for Adventure! CrawCrafts BeastiesThat’s a lot of beer for one Beastie – no wonder he looks a little blurry around the edges! Cheers!

It really is amazing what you can discover when you journey even a short distance away from your usual haunts, isn’t it? If any of you have had a fun “staycation” or day trip recently, we’d love to hear about it! Share your story in the comments… and we’ll be back on Tuesday with the last of the pre-Christmas Beasties!

Roooooad Triiiiiip!

Alas, poor Explorer Beastie! He doesn’t get out nearly as much as he’d like. So last week, when an opportunity for a bit of an adventure in Ireland’s wild north west presented itself, it was all I could do to stop him from sleeping in the car the night before.

Ready? Off we go!
Road Trip Montage - CrawCrafts BeastiesBecause this is such a small island, we soon felt like we had left the city far behind…
Hello Countryside! CrawCrafts Beasties… And of course, it wasn’t long before all this fresh air gave us a bit of an appetite. Time for a pitstop – and that most important meal, Third Breakfast.
Explorer Beastie, Eyeing up my Breakfast - CrawCrafts BeastiesYUM! We also had a chance to hang out with some of the locals…
After Breakfast Entertainment - CrawCrafts Beasties… And sign the visitors’ book!
Signing the Visitors' Book - CrawCrafts BeastiesTempting as it was to stick around for dinner, there was exploring to be done! We piled back into the car, cranked up the cheesy 90s dance music to 11 and made for the coast. Next stop, Five Finger Strand!
The Path to Five Finger Strand - CrawCrafts BeastiesNice to feel the sand under your paws, Explorer Beastie? Thought so!
Explorer Beastie at Five Finger Strand - CrawCrafts BeastiesThere’s plenty to do here – look for bird tracks, clamber over driftwood, hide in the grass… And the view’s not too shabby either!
View Along Five Finger Strand - CrawCrafts BeastiesIn fact, it would all make a Beastie feel very small and insignificant… Well, if he wasn’t busy photobombing all my pictures.
DANGIT EXPLORER BEASTIE! CrawCrafts BeastiesAs the daylight started to fade, we took the high road away from Five Finger Strand… and stopped on the side of the road to get a different perspective of the beach and the surrounding countryside.
The View From Higher Up - CrawCrafts BeastiesHow cool is that isolated little church?

Next stop, Ireland’s northernmost point – Malin Head!

Buuuuut in keeping with the coastal theme, we’re going to leave this post as a cliffhanger! Part two will be coming your way this time next week, AND there’s a marine-themed new Beastie for you to meet on Tuesday too!

Are any of you hitting the road this weekend? Tell us all about it in the comments!

FYI – We got our delicious fry-up in Café Donagh, Carndonagh… Highly recommended if you’re planning a hectic day of Donegal-based exploring and/or Beastie-wrangling. This quirky little café serves generous breakfasts all day long, and I have it on good authority that their coffee is excellent too!